On my last post, I detailed the sorry state of events that led to the PIL, filed by Shantanu Sharma and Rahul Mehra in 2000. The case seems to have progressed slowly to the current state that, now after five years, a New Delhi high court has instructed Sharma and Mehra, to file (on or before May 25th) a wish list. The BCCI has also been instructed to file appropriate response to each item on the wish list. Rediff set out to ask its readers to send in suggestions. Most of these suggestions seem very clear cut. But some seem to be knee jerk with no explanation as to how such a suggestion could be logically implemented by the BCCI in the near future.
I have attempted to dissect some of the major suggestions that have been thrown up by these readers. I have also added as and when required, my own suggestions to suggest a framework by which the BCCI’s day to day activities could be coordinated towards the single goal of ensuring a better experience, both for the players and paying public. I think I might sound stupid, but I am ignorant sometimes. So please bear with me and do leave your comments if you think there are some points that I need to learn about before talking about them.
Go and ask any cricket fan in India for his/her views about how BCCI could improve, the first thing that would probably come out of their mouth would be that the BCCI should be run with people who have played some cricket in a professional capacity for a State or the country. But how are we going to attract these former players?
Let’s ask a question to ourselves. Let us assume X earns a monthly salary of Rs. 20000 through an IT services company. Such employment offers X a fixed framework to work, by way of a fixed job description, fixed working hours (mostly) and not to mention, job security. Let us say that X is a very good singer. X loves to sing and has been singing at live concerts for a sum. Suddenly a music company comes to X and offers singing gigs, but at a lesser salary that X has been earning so far. X is also told that the payment will be on an hourly basis and only when X sings. Would X want to leave the IT services company just to sing on an hourly basis? Wouldn’t X think that it would be better if the two jobs could be juggled in such a way that the working hours wouldn’t conflict? And in any case, professionally there would not be any conflict of interest, unless X has to sing for a campaign to promote a rival of his employer. And I am sure that X would come to such a conclusion.
Do you see where I am coming at? Most former cricketers who I think have the capability to administer cricket, say a Gavaskar or a Ravi Shastri (for e.g.) are contracted with one TV channel or the other to offer expert commentary during televised games. While X’s dual gigs would not be in conflict, Gavaskar’s presence in both the TV studio and the Board’s selection committee meeting would probably be in conflict. Rameez Raaja found just that last year when he, even though he was in the team selection panel, was sitting in the commentary box, sometimes dishing the same players he helped select. So the way out, to sign on capable cricketers exclusively by offering them remuneration comparable to what they would receive from the TV channels. Also this employment contract would be of no fixed duration giving them the oppurtunity to leave if they choose to. But for this to happen, a corporate structure has to exist within the BCCI. This is currently not the case.
The ICC’s member profile page for India informs us that India has been a Full Member since 31 May 1926. But what really surprised me is the fact that the BCCI’s office seems to be headquartered at Trivandrum (address: Board of Control for Cricket in India, "Kairali", G.H.S. Lane, Manacaud, Trivandrum 695 009, Kerala, India) with an email address hosted by Sathyam Infoway for contact! Funny, because I always thought that the BCCI is based out of Mumbai. While this might just be a oversight or a error on the ICC part, it is really surprising (and saddening) that the India seems to be the only full member of the ICC that does not have an official email address, let alone an official website. Even Zimbabwe seems to have at least an official looking email address. I have sent an email to the address mentioned in the ICC website and will update this post as and when I get a response (or the email error message that I expect to get). I am highlighting this trivial issue because since even the perfunctory corporate structure does not exist, how are we going to treat it like a corporate body?
So, do we force the BCCI to incorporate a business framework into its working? I think that’s the way out. Now this does not mean that I want the government to take over the BCCI. Well, certainly not forever. But again, a government take over has its own pitfalls as a lot of Rediff’s respondents seem to have realized. So I have an alternate suggestion here.
Change is inevitable. And when the situation has not met change for eons, then the change would need to be radical. My suggestion has echoed by a lot others. But I think I have added a unique side to it, which will be apparent when you read on.
For starters, I DO want judicial and/or executive intervention into the BCCI’s affairs. The courts seem to have laid out some initiatives from their side, but it seems easily possible that the BCCI can get some another judge to either overturn the original order or at least obtain a stay in this regard. So would Executive intervention be a solution? I am not a constitutional expert, but would it be possible for the government, not necessarily the PMO, but Raisina Hill, to reach out to the BCCI and see what is going on? Now that would be a start.
This is how it should play out. The government appoints a steering committee, initially comprising of a few cricketers. However, I would definitely not want the one’s who keep putting their foot in their mouth everyday in the media, like Ashok Malhotra (who seems to have been in a coma for the past 5 years) and Mohinder Amarnath (who seems to be proud that he has a lap but no laptop). It would be better if this committee included people like Venkatraghavan, Vishwanath, Gavaskar and Pataudi, four people who seem to be intelligent enough to handle the attention and still do what is asked of them capably. Again the remuneration conditions that I have mentioned above should be followed clearly.
My next suggestion is probably the most controversial. Someone like Dalmiya or Bindra should be included in the committee. These two seem to have built up Indian cricket into this money making machine, starting with the 96 World Cup that their expertise in the business side should not be ignored. Bindra in addition seems to be doing pretty well in administering the PCA and seems to have developed Mohali into probably the best facilities in India. But Dalmiya or Bindra, either way, will not head the committee nor have any veto powers.
The government also deputizes a senior civil services officer from the IAS or the judicial system to liaise with the committee and make sure everything goes on track. This is a key position and the person chosen should be knowledgeable and also senior enough to not be in awe of the cricketers. This last part is trivial, but it seems possible that with cricket being as big as it is in India, anybody could be swayed from their duties.
Now what is this steering committee for? This steering committee would first figure out a business framework for Indian cricket under the financial and business laws laid down by the Constitution of India. Once the framework is set, the committee and government of India would advertise in the media channels calling for qualified candidates for a CEO to head “Cricket India”.
My take is that, the CEO of “Cricket India” just needs to be a good manager with pre-requisite experience of leading a reasonably large company successfully. Now once the CEO is chosen, the CEO sits with the steering committee to pick a candidate for a CFO and a CTO. The qualifications for the CFO would be just like any other company. But the CTO should have been involved with cricket or played cricket, not necessarily in India. For starters, the steering committee (along with the CEO, CTO and the CFO) shall pick a selection panel comprising of former international cricketers as salaried employees. These employees shall have no fixed term, but would be free to leave their positions as and when they deem fit. Subsequently, other cricketers shall be interviewed for these vacant positions if there are any.
And once the business framework is set, the company shall take over the running of the BCCI at the national level with the state level organizations following suit in time. The new organization shall be registered as company in the stock exchanges and shall be answerable to all its shareholders. Such an organization would enter into agreements with service providers like the TV production companies just like any other company would do with its vendors and customers. The financial details would also be made public every year or quarter. And I am sure that Indian cricket would be comparable to any current blue chip stocks once it is listed.
Now, this cannot be done within a day or two. So it is logical that we let the BCCI stay as it is, till the steering committee shall do what it needs to do. Once Cricket India becomes a reality, the BCCI should be asked to hand in the reigns with all assets of the BCCI transferred to the new organization.
But all this will not be possible without executive intervention. And the PMO intervening would be too much to ask, with the current political scenario in India being non conducive for radical steps. So where do we go? Would Raisina Hill oblige with an executive order? Is it even possible?